In a remote country house, terminally ill Agnes (Andersson) is looked after by her sisters, domineering Karin (Thulin) and the more reticent, childlike Maria (Ullman), as well as a devoted maid, Anna (Sylwan). As Agnes struggles from one moment to the next to cling to life, she attempts to reconcile the petty differences that divide her siblings, each of whom is suffering a private agony of her own.
When it comes to dramatizing the dark night of the soul, Swedish master Ingmar Bergman has no equal. "Cries" is one of his finest achievements, focusing on mortality and a brand of despair about life's myriad disappointments that is uniquely female. Sorrowful and devastating, the film immerses us in the unhappy lives of three sisters, memorably played by Andersson, Thulin, and Ullman, who are undone by sexual repression and failed marriages. Bergman's films are no cakewalk, but his perceptive grip on human psychology is truly visionary, and in the end, deeply compassionate.